Journal of Applied Ecology’s outgoing and incoming Executive Editors, Marc Cadotte and Jos Barlow, take stock of the growth of the journal and how applied ecology has developed as a discipline in the past decade. They also look forward to innovative new projects and publications aiming to further support ecological researchers and practitioners. 

Applied ecological research has never before been more germane to the management of natural ecosystems and resources. Biodiversity and ecosystem integrity have been diminished by the global destruction of habitats, the movement of species around the world and the impacts of atmospheric carbon and nitrogen pollution. The urgency of the need to advance and implement management responses to undo or alleviate these impacts has prompted the United Nations to declare the 2020s ‘the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Given the emphasis on such management solutions to restoring and enhancing biodiversity, advances in applied ecology are front and centre of plans to achieve the goals laid out in various global calls, such as the Bonn Challenge to restore 350 million hectares of destroyed and damaged habitats by 2030.

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Now on its 57th volume, Journal of Applied Ecology has seen its reach grow extensively in the past 10 years

As long-term Editors of Journal of Applied Ecology, we have seen, firsthand, how applied ecology has grown as a scientific discipline, responded to new technologies and emerging threats, and endeavoured to be more global and inclusive. The journal’s impact has grown dramatically in the last 20 years. The ISI impact factor rose from a middling position amongst ecology journals (IF < 2.0) to being one of the top ranked journals (2018 IF = 5.78). It is currently ranked fourth in Ecology by Google Scholar and fifth in Biodiversity Conservation by Web of Knowledge. Article downloads and page views have also ballooned: with over 1.2 million article downloads a year, Journal of Applied Ecology is one of the most accessed journals in ecology and conservation.

Despite these advances and the positioning of the journal as a global leader in communicating applied ecological research, we are also aware that much work still needs to be done in order to truly and effectively communicate advances in applied ecology and ensure their use in management and decision-making. In particular, we are aware of the massive geographical disparity in manuscript submissions, acceptances and article page visits for the journal, with the strongest predictor of variation among countries being the proportion of English speakers within a country’s population. Furthermore, many tropical countries, where environmental problems and biodiversity threats necessitate applied ecological solutions, are simply not interacting with the discipline. In addition to this, despite the successful launch of a Practitioner’s Perspective article category in 2011, the journal remains predominantly authored and read by academics. This, again, highlights the need to better engage the audiences that are managing natural systems on the ground or influencing policy.

The path ahead

Engaging with a broader and more diverse audience requires an innovative approach to both what we publish and how we engage with applied ecologists. The current Editorial Board of Journal of Applied Ecology includes Senior Editors from three different continents, and over 100 Associate Editors and Associate Editor Mentees from across the world. The expansion in the geographic breadth and diversity of the board is fundamental to reach out to reviewers and practitioners in new regions and to support authors from underrepresented regions to publish their research in leading journals. In leading the the development of open calls to recruit new Associate Editors (a new call again later this year), we strive to continually grow this geographic diversity and welcome a global group of individuals to support the running of the journal.

In terms of the journal content, we invite authors to publish translations of their abstracts and promotional materials alongside the English versions, with the aim of enhancing readership in the regions where the science was carried out. At the same time, we know that this is not enough and we are currently exploring projects that will help us take further steps forwards in diversifying the geographic reach of the journal. We welcome your feedback and ideas to help us achieve this goal.

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Applied ecologists, environmental practitioners and conservationists require a diverse range of information types in order to fully traverse the information-implementation pipeline. The innovative new platform, Applied Ecology Resources(AER), will provide a storehouse of information for practitioners. Led by Marc as Editor-in-Chief, AER is a dynamic online repository for a wide diversity of information types. Designed to enable information sharing for anyone involved in the management of natural systems, AER will serve as a home for applied ecological information that bridges scientific research to grey literature, and promotes evidence-based decision-making and policy. AER will contain a wide range of documents such as research summaries, open access journal articles, stakeholder reports, and case studies. It will also support information written in several languages and supply an English-language summary for any non-English documents.

Within AER sits the new, open access journal, Ecological Solutions and Evidence, which will publish articles with direct relevance for the management of biological resources and ecological systems. Now open for submissions, the journal encourages contributions from people in a range of ecological roles and aims to include original research and case studies that communicate key findings and observations. Besides research and review articles, Ecological Solutions and Evidence will also publish Data Articles and From Practice papers. Authored by practitioners, From Practice papers will be published in a flexible format as a venue to communicate lessons learned, organisational success or research needs. Mindful of reducing barriers to practitioners sharing their work, open access fees for this article type are much reduced.

Journal of Applied Ecology and Ecological Solutions and Evidence will maintain a close working relationship, collaborating on content collections and the new initiatives described above to further geographic reach. A transfer option also exists between the two journals. Manuscripts with management relevance that do not have the cutting-edge novelty and broad appeal required by Journal of Applied Ecology can be offered an option to transfer their submission to Ecological Solutions and Evidence with reduced open access fees. In these situations, the reviews will transfer too so the overall process should be more efficient for authors.

The actions humankind takes in the coming decade will be crucial to determining the future of biodiversity on the planet. Our aim with Journal of Applied Ecology, Ecological Solutions and Evidence and Applied Ecological Resources is to support researchers and practitioners so that they, in turn, can share information, inform which actions will be most effective, and have the greatest influence possible in conserving and restoring the world’s ecosystems. The challenges are of course many, but the world’s growing ecological community is better prepared than ever.

Get to know the Editorial Boards for Journal of Applied Ecology and Ecological Solutions and Evidence.

Find out more about the new Applied Ecology Resources project here.

Marc Cadotte was a Senior Editor and then Executive Editor of Journal of Applied Ecology from 2008-2019 and is now heading up the British Ecological Society’s newest publication project, Applied Ecology Resources and its associated journal, Ecological Solutions and Evidence. Jos Barlow has been a Senior Editor with Journal of Applied Ecology since 2011 and moved into the role of Executive Editor in 2020.